Sailor's same-sex kiss prompts cheers, jeers

Mayport spokesman says Navy has always been gender neutral

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A couple married for a year embraced and kissed Friday for the first time in months after a long Navy deployment as a crowd at Naval Station Mayport cheered and cameras recorded the moment.

The ceremonial first kiss is a part of every naval homecoming, but because the one as the USS The Sullivans returned from the Middle East with 300 sailors aboard was a same-sex couple, so this one got a lot of attention and significant backlash.

The first kiss is decided by lottery. Sailors’ spouses donate to a good cause to enter a raffle.

Kenneth Woodington won, and when his husband, sailor Bryan Woodington walked off the gangway, they locked lips for the first time in seven months. (Photo, right, courtesy US Navy)

"I was excited and I could not wait for it to happen," Bryan said. "I knew I was going to dip him."

"When he got off the ship, I lost all control, I just dropped everything and I just ran," Kenneth said.

While the kiss was greeted by cheers at the base, News4Jax got jeers. Viewers bombarded the station with phone calls and emails objecting to the decision to show the kiss.

How sad that your station has dropped to such a low as to show a gay couple kissing on your newscast."

I’ll never watch your news again!!!! So long, News4Jax."

I thought this was a ‘family friendly’ news channel.”

The couple is aware of the negative comments. Internet users posted them on Naval Station Mayport’s page, as well.

"It didn’t really bother me," Kenneth said. "Honestly, I’m the type of person who doesn’t really care that much about what people say."

"My grandmother always taught me, she said, 'You know some people have a different life and this is how they are and you just have to treat them as such, and treat them with kindness and respect,'"  Bryan said.

These newlyweds said they’ve received more positive feedback than negative and the Navy has been nothing but kind and accepting. Both said this can be a teaching moment, that it’s 2018 and they feel that love is."

"I wanted to give him nothing but love and care and understanding right out the gate, so I think we just fell for each other really hard and we both knew what we really wanted," 

Bill Austin, spokesman for Naval Station Mayport, said a same-sex first kiss has happened before and it is not an issue for the Navy. He said the seagoing branch of the armed forces has always been gender neutral and on the forefront of progress.

About the Author:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.